Background: Violence against adolescent girls in humanitarian settings is of urgent concern given their additional vulnerabilities to violence and unique health and well-being needs that have largely been overlooked by the humanitarian community. In order to understand what works to prevent violence against adolescent girls, a multi-component curriculum-based safe spaces program (Creating Opportunities through Mentorship, Parental involvement and Safe Spaces - COMPASS) will be implemented and evaluated. The objectives of this multi-country study are to understand the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of COMPASS programming to prevent violence against adolescent girls in diverse humanitarian settings.
Methods/design: Two wait-listed cluster-randomized controlled trials are being implemented in conflict-affected communities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (N = 886 girls aged 10-14 years) and in refugee camps in western Ethiopia (N = 919 girls aged 13-19 years). The intervention consists of structured facilitated sessions delivered in safe spaces by young female mentors, caregiver discussion groups, capacity-building activities with service providers, and community engagement. In Ethiopia, the research centers on the overall impact of COMPASS compared to a wait-list group. In DRC, the research objective is to understand the incremental effectiveness of the caregiver component in addition to the other COMPASS activities as compared to a wait-list group. The primary outcome is change in sexual violence. Secondary outcomes include decreased physical and emotional abuse, reduced early marriage, improved gender norms, and positive interpersonal relationships, among others. Qualitative methodologies seek to understand girls' perceptions of safety within their communities, key challenges they face, and to identify potential pathways of change.
Discussion: These trials will add much needed evidence for the humanitarian community to meet the unique needs of adolescent girls and to promote their safety and well-being, as well as contributing to how multi-component empowerment programming for adolescent girls could be adapted across humanitarian settings.